How old do you look?

I was going to just put this in quick hits, but it’s too much fun not to get it’s own post.  A Microsoft website that uses some algorithm to guess your age and gender (pretty accurately) by your photo.  Here it is getting my daughter just right and me six years too young in my current profile photo.

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Had a lot of fun with this using a number of different photos.  It had me as high as 46 and as low as 36.  On average, probably low 40’s– not bad.  And yes, always as a man :-).

And here’s a family Christmas photo.  Would love to know what it is about my son David (15) that it always thinks he’s late 20’s.

Screenshot - 4_30_2015 , 9_15_48 PM

Let me know how it does for you.

How lead lead to the Baltimore riots

Well, not exactly, but sort of.  First, the Post:

Before his controversial death earlier this month while in police custody, which has set this city aflame in rioting, the life of Freddie Gray was defined by failures in the classroom, run-ins with the law, and an inability to focus on anything for very long. Many of those problems began when he was a child and living in this house, according to a 2008 lead poisoning lawsuit filed by Gray and his siblings against the property owner, which resulted in an undisclosed settlement.

Reports of Gray’s history with lead come at a time when the city and nation are still trying to understand the full ramifications of lead poisoning. Advocates and studies say it can diminish cognitive function, increase aggression and ultimately exacerbate the cycle of poverty that is already exceedingly difficult to break.

Kevin Drum, despite being in the midst of serious cancer treatment, cannot resist weighing in with a great post on the lead and crime link (of which he’s written extensively– this is an assigned reading in my criminal justice policy class).

When Freddie Gray was 22 months old, he had a tested blood lead level of 37 micrograms per deciliter. This is an absolutely astronomical amount. Freddie never even had the slightest chance of growing up normally. Lead poisoning doomed him from the start to a life of heightened aggression, poor learning abilities, and weak impulse control. His life was a tragedy set in motion the day he was born.

But even from the midst of my chemo haze, I want to make a short, sharp point about this that goes far beyond just Gray’s personal tragedy. It’s this: thanks both to lead paint and leaded gasoline, there were lots of teenagers like Freddie Gray in the 90s. This created a huge and genuinely scary wave of violent crime, and in response we turned many of our urban police forces into occupying armies. This may have been wrong even then, but it was hardly inexplicable. Decades of lead poisoning really had created huge numbers of scarily violent teenagers, and a massive, militaristic response may have seemed like the only way to even begin to hold the line.

But here’s the thing: that era is over. Individual tragedies like Freddie Gray are still too common, but overall lead poisoning has plummeted. As a result, our cities are safer because our kids are fundamentally less dangerous. To a large extent, they are now normal teenagers, not lead-poisoned predators.

This is important, because even if you’re a hard-ass law-and-order type, you should understand that we no longer need urban police departments to act like occupying armies. The 90s are gone, and today’s teenagers are just ordinary teenagers…

We just don’t. We live in a different, safer era, and it’s time for all of us—voters, politicians, cops, parents—to get this through our collective heads. Generation Lead is over, thank God. Let’s stop pretending it’s always and forever 1993. Reform is way overdue.

Photo of the day

From Telegraph’s photos of the week:

Lightning brightens the night sky over Washington, DC, during a storm

Lightning brightens the night sky over Washington, DC, during a stormPicture: Mladen Antonov/AFP

Guns for everyone!

Apparently we are not safe enough here in NC.  Clearly we need more guns.  Guns for everyone!  Among the more interesting/disturbing provisions in what the NC Republicans are offering us:

House Bill 562 would require schools to allow gun owners with concealed weapons permits to bring their guns onto school property as long as they leave the gun locked in their vehicle. It would allow citizens to sue local governments that try to restrict the right to carry concealed weapons.

It also would require property and business owners who don’t allow weapons to place a large sign to that effect in a prominent location. A violation of such a notice would no longer be a misdemeanor, just an infraction.

The bill would ban doctors or psychiatrists from asking patients in writing whether they own or have access to guns. They would be banned from passing that information along to anyone, even law enforcement, even if a patient were to express a desire to harm himself or others.

Glad to know that the “2nd amendment rights” of those intent on harming others trump any reasonable concern of public safety.  And what’s with this ban on asking “in writing”?  So there’s– heaven forbid– no written record someone own’s a gun?!  Can’t have the one-world government knowing that information and swooping in with black helicopters to take the guns away.

Kristof on Baltimore

Sometimes the knee-jerk tendency of journalists to take the “both sides…” approach is really annoying, but I think Kristof gets it right in this column on Baltimore:

It’s outrageous when officers use excessive force against young, unarmed African-American men, who are 21 times as likely to be shot dead by the police as young white men. It’s also outrageous when rioters loot shops or attack officers…

President Obama set just the right tone.

“When individuals get crowbars and start prying open doors to loot, they’re not protesting. They’re not making a statement. They’re stealing,” Obama said. “When they burn down a building, they’re committing arson. And they’re destroying and undermining businesses and opportunities in their own communities.”

Absolutely.  There’s simply no excuse for that kind of crime.  (Though, it still is useful to understand the social and historical context that leads to it).  That said, Kristof rightly returns to the bigger and more important picture here:

Yet as Obama, Anthony and other leaders also noted, there are crucial underlying inequities that demand attention. The rioting distracts from those inequities, which are the far larger burden on America’s cities…

If wealthy white parents found their children damaged by lead poisoning, consigned to dismal schools, denied any opportunity to get ahead, more likely to end up in prison than college, harassed and occasionally killed by the police — why, then we’d hear roars of grievance. And they’d be right to roar: Parents of any color should protest, peacefully but loudly, about such injustices.

The real crisis isn’t one night of young men in the street rioting. It’s something perhaps even more inexcusable — our own complacency at the systematic long-term denial of equal opportunity to people based on their skin color and ZIP code. [emphasis mine]

Of course, violence and burning buildings are always going to capture the attention of the newsmedia (especially television) more than the massively important social and historical context, but, at least there’s some excellent print journalism (Kristof is just one of many examples I’ve seen) that really understands what’s going on.

Judges are different

So, unlimited campaign money is a bad thing when judges are involved, says John Roberts.  Judges are different.  Mark Joseph Stern writes:

On Wednesday, Roberts halted his crusade against campaign finance reform in a stunning reversal that almost nobody—myself included—saw coming. In Williams-Yulee v. Florida Bar, Roberts joined the liberals to uphold a Florida measure that barred elected judges from personally soliciting campaign funds. (This is only the second time Roberts has sided with the four liberals against four dissenting conservatives; the first time was in the 2012 Obamacare case.) In his opinion, Roberts explains:

Judges are not politicians, even when they come to the bench by way of the ballot. And a State’s decision to elect its judiciary does not compel it to treat judicial candidates like campaigners for political office. A State may assure its people that judges will apply the law without fear or favor—and without having personally asked anyone for money.

Roberts’ logic here is simple and commonsensical. A state’s judiciary can function healthily only if citizens are content that judges apply the law impartially. If a judicial candidate is permitted to personally ask individuals to donate to her campaign, she may be tempted to treat her donors more favorably in the courtroom. Even if the judge herself remains unbiased, a reasonable observer may still believe that when she rules in favor of a donor, his donation influenced her thinking—consciously or unconsciously. This risk of corruption, actual or perceived, is enough to justify Florida’s narrow, sensible restriction on speech.

Why, then, does the hypothetical risk of corruption not justify restrictions onlegislative campaign finance and solicitation? Roberts doesn’t say, exactly—but the answer likely has something to do with judicial dignity. The conservative justices seemed skeptical of this notion at oral arguments, but between then and now, Roberts seems to have realized that permitting judges to panhandle would seriously undermine “public confidence in judicial integrity.” Roberts just isn’t that concerned about public confidence in legislative integrity—perhaps because he’s a judge, not a legislator, and understands that when judges beg people for money then rule in their favor, the principle of impartiality takes a huge hit. (On the other hand, Roberts seems to think that legislators voting in the interests of their highest donor is just democracy in action.)

Of course, judges actually are different, but it seems to me if you believe in “public confidence in judicial integrity” you damn well ought to believe in public confidence in legislative integrity.  And if Roberts thinks our crazy, post Citizens United campaign finance regime has not undermined public confidence in legislative integrity he’s got his head in the sand half-way to China.  But, of course, Roberts is a judge, and judges are special.

Photo of the day

This is really cool– a Smithsonian gallery of Lake Michigan, which is currently so clear you can see 19th centurry shipwrecks on the bottom.

The 121-foot brig James McBride lies in 5 to 15 feet of water near Sleeping Bear Point.

The Coast Guard’s Facebook page reports: “Late in 1848, the McBride sailed to the Atlantic Ocean to pick up a cargo of salt at Turk Island. On her return she stopped at Nova Scotia and added codfish to her manifest. She delivered her cargo to Chicago on December 4, 1848. This trip created a sensation because it was believed to be the first cargo carried direct from the Atlantic to a Lake Michigan port.”

US Coast Guard Air Station Traverse City

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